A recent farmer seminar held by Reid Stockfeeds in Cobden presented information developed by Dairy Australia which has shed light on why many farmers who have implemented transition programmes in their herds have not seen the full benefit of these programmes.
Historically, ‘lead feeding’ has meant supplying cows with a 3kg concentrate mix including anionic salts for approximately 14 days pre-calving. While this practice has reduced many farms milk fever rates, it has only resulted in marginal improvements in production and reproduction. While well formulated lead feeds will reduce milk fever, poorly formulated concentrates can actually reduce the animal’s intakes and lead to several other metabolic disorders including excessive weight loss. This coupled with poorly designed transition programmes which do not address total daily intake of a number of nutrients including energy, protein, Calcium, Phosphorus and Magnesium ‘leads’ cows down a path of continued weight loss, poor egg development and eventually reduced fertility.
Quality lead feed concentrates should have high starch levels, a low DCAD, low Calcium & Phosphorus and adequate Magnesium. They should also be designed to encourage dry matter intake and insulin responses, reducing weight loss both pre and post calving. Cheaper leed feeds will likely only address DCAD. Importantly, they should also be utilised in a complete transition programme which takes account of concentrate, forage, paddock feed, infrastructure, farm management, milking and fresh cow management. By addressing these and many other factors, a good transition programme can improve production and fertility even when milk fever is not a major issue.
For more information on transition management, or assistance in preparing a transition programme specifically for your property, contact Reid Stockfeeds on 1300 331 425 to make an appointment with one of their consulting nutritionists.